From stealing scenes in STAR WARS to her recent work with Marvel, Lupita Nyong’o has become more than a household name: She’s a legitimate superstar. But there’s so much more to love about Lupita than her roles in our favorite blockbusters — or those head-turning red carpet looks on the awards circuit.
In fact, there’s quite a bit you might not know about this acclaimed actress. For instance, did you know that she was born in Mexico and raised in Kenya? Or that she directed a movie before she ever starred in one? Read on for all of the reasons we love Lupita Nyong’o.
Once Upon a Time
Lupita Nyong’o was born in Mexico City in 1983, where her father — a former Minister for Medical Services — was teaching as a visiting lecturer in political science. Her parents are both Kenyan, and they took Lupita home to Kenya, where she was raised in Nairobi. At the age of 16, Lupita was already becoming more worldly than most of us: She returned to Mexico to learn Spanish and still holds a dual citizenship in Kenya and Mexico.
By the age of 14, Lupita was already getting into acting, inspired by the work of American actresses like Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, whose performances in THE COLOR PURPLE left quite an impression on the young Lupita. She made her debut playing Juliet in a local professional production of “Romeo and Juliet” in Nairobi and went on to star in a few more plays before heading to America for college.
Before She Was Famous
Long before Lupita ever stepped in front of a camera, she was working in production on movies like THE CONSTANT GARDENER and THE NAMESAKE. It was while she was working as a crew member on THE CONSTANT GARDENER that Lupita began to seriously consider acting as a career possibility. The film’s star, Ralph Fiennes, inspired her to pursue acting, though it would still be eight years before she landed her first role in a feature film.
In the meantime, Lupita returned to Kenya and starred in a TV series called “Shuga” and made her directorial debut with the 2009 documentary IN MY GENES. Then, in 2013, Lupita finally hit the big screen in Steve McQueen’s 12 YEARS A SLAVE, in which she played a young slave woman named Patsey. Lupita delivered an incredible performance in one of the film’s most difficult and upsetting scenes and went on to earn an Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actress — becoming the first Kenyan and Mexican performer to do so.
Breakthrough and Beyond
12 YEARS A SLAVE was a huge breakthrough moment for Lupita. Like many actors in her shoes, she took the opportunity to follow it up with a role in a big blockbuster. Unlike many of her peers, though, Lupita took a unique approach to blockbuster stardom, playing a CGI character in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. After starring in a film where her appearance was the main focus, Lupita said she wanted to do something where her looks wouldn’t matter. For STAR WARS, Lupita played the wise space pirate Maz Kanata via motion-capture and followed this up by voicing a wolf named Raksha in Disney’s remake of THE JUNGLE BOOK.
Lupita Nyong’o’s fans were thrilled when the actress finally returned to the world of live action, playing the scene-stealing Nakia in Marvel’s BLACK PANTHER. She’s expected to return for the sequel, but in the meantime, Lupita will appear next in US, Jordan Peele’s highly anticipated follow-up to GET OUT.
In the psychological thriller, a family on vacation is confronted by their own doppelgängers, who seem determined to kill them. Nyong’o plays the mother of the family, while her BLACK PANTHER co-star Winston Duke plays the dad. US hits theatres later this month, and based on what we’ve seen in the trailers, it’s just going to give us one more reason to really love Lupita.
Get your tickets now to US, which opens at AMC on March 22!